'Separating: Too Far to Go' by John Updike
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Too Far to Go
By John Updike

Early in my career as a writer—and as a reader—I came across a piece by John Updike collected in the 1976 edition of the O. Henry Prize stories. Entitled "Separating," it's about a couple trying to tell their children at the dinner table that they are going to separate. The effect of the short story on me was immediate and visceral. I began to cry before I'd finished the first page. The heartache of the father as he has to tell his four children that their family (as they have known it) is now over is beautifully rendered. Ten years later, I remembered that experience and wondered, in a more technical sense, what had so powerfully triggered my emotional response? I decided to take a cold, hard look at the work. I hadn't reached the bottom of the first page before I was again overcome. If ever there was an example of the power of the written word to evoke strong emotion, I believe this is it. ("Separating" can be found in Too Far to Go.)

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